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Q Our new chief ex­ec­u­tive in­sists on talk­ing about him­self in the third per­son. How do I make him stop? I ex­pect that he was once sent on a per­sonal de­vel­op­ment course for as­pir­ing lead­ers and was re­minded by the res­i­dent mo­ti­va­tional speaker that there was no “I” in team.

When he says “Ja­son’s been do­ing re­search into this and he’s come to the con­clu­sion that he’d be bet­ter ad­vised to have fixed price points”, ask: “Who’s ad­vis­ing Ja­son these days?” With any luck, he’ll have to say “I am, as a mat­ter of fact” – which will at least show he hasn’t for­got­ten the word.

But at least (I as­sume) he uses the third per­son sin­gu­lar. If he starts us­ing the third per­son plu­ral, call your per­sonal de­vel­op­ment ad­vi­sor im­me­di­ately.


Dear Jeremy, Our pro­cure­ment team is al­most big­ger than my en­tire mar­ket­ing team. Is it time for me to leave the busi­ness? It all de­pends on who they are and whether their minds are closed or open. Most pro­cure­ment peo­ple would like to be bet­ter pro­cure­ment peo­ple but no­body shows them how.

You’re in mar­ket­ing. It’s your job to un­der­stand peo­ple who are to­tally dif­fer­ent from you and show them why they would be bet­ter off if they took a course of ac­tion they hadn’t pre­vi­ously con­tem­plated. Try us­ing this skill on your pro­cure­ment peo­ple.

Ask them if they’re con­fi­dent that they can put an ac­cu­rate, re­li­able and ac­tion­able mea­sure­ment on ev­ery sin­gle as­pect of a com­pany’s per­for­mance. Some will say yes, and you may safely dis­miss them. Oth­ers will say “I wish…”

Then take as your open­ing text the mem­o­ran­dum sent in 2007 by Howard Schultz, now ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Star­bucks, to his top ex­ec­u­tives.

In it, he wrote: “Over the last ten years, in or­der to achieve the growth, de­vel­op­ment and scale to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and be­yond, we have had to make a se­ries of de­ci­sions that, in ret­ro­spect, have led to the wa­ter­ing down of the Star­bucks ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Part of that ex­pe­ri­ence had been wit­ness­ing Star­bucks’ baris­tas pulling each espresso shot by hand. In the in­ter­ests of con­sis­tency and speed, both em­i­nently mea­sur­able, they switched to au­to­matic espresso ma­chines. “In do­ing so,” Schultz wrote, “we over­looked the fact that we would re­move much of the ro­mance and theatre.”

Once, Star­bucks had scooped fresh beans from great bins and ground them in front of cus­tomers. In­stead, to achieve mea­sur­able gains in ef­fi­ciency, they adopted flavour­locked por­tions. Schultz wrote: “We achieved fresh roasted bagged coffee, but at what cost? The loss of aroma – per­haps the most pow­er­ful non-ver­bal sig­nal we had in our stores.” With hind­sight, he said, the out­come of these and many other wellinten­tioned and metic­u­lously mea­sured changes was “stores that no longer have the soul of the past”.

Ask your open-minded pro­cure­ment peo­ple whether they can un­der­stand why an abil­ity to de­liver such amor­phous qual­i­ties as ro­mance, theatre and soul – by def­i­ni­tion im­pos­si­ble to quan­tify – should count strongly when as­sess­ing a com­pany’s abilit y to be good value for money.

Fi­nally, re­mind them that any minute now ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence will be able to do their mea­sure­ment stuff far more quickly and cheaply than they can; but, in do­ing so, will re­move much of the ro­mance and theatre (and there­fore po­ten­tial value) of hu­man com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Per­haps they’d be in­ter­ested in learn­ing how to be­come mas­ters of Pro­cure­ment 2.0, where their per­sonal judg­ment is as highly re­spected as their met­rics? I’m sure you’d be only too happy to help.


Swe­den is in­tro­duc­ing a dreamy six-hour work­day. That’s the ad­di­tional amount of time I work most week­ends! Is it pos­si­ble that I’d get just as much done in fewer hours if I changed the way I worked? Any tips to do so? Would a six-hour day ever work in ad­land? Ad­land isn’t driven by days, it’s driven by projects. Give a project three weeks and it will take 23 days. Give the same project ten days and it will take 12. As an ex­per­i­ment, give it 45 min­utes: you’ll be amazed. This isn’t cussed­ness or bol­shi­ness or bad man­ners. We need to feel the breath of fail­ure be­fore risk­ing it.

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